… The Proust Project …

Why have an off night? It’s not enough for Classic Stage to be putting on currently three major plays by three different Greek playwrights, they’re using their one night off to do their Proust Project, a series of four Monday nights of dramatized readings after Proust’s great early 20th century novel, Remembrance of Things Past.  I’m so glad they are!

The first Proust evening of Swann in Love was breathtaking, with the actors on an unadorned stage in front of the backdrop of the current major production, An Oresteia (see here below), and with three chamber music players framed by a cut in the plywood set behind it, and playing beautiful music that calls up the time — the way, for Proust, the madeleine pastry evokes the past.

Proust, in Swann in Love, recounts in subtle detail, taking his time, leaving nothing out the very process of this love, the story of a highly sophisticated man of high society, an amateur of the arts, who falls profoundly in love with a clever lower class cocotte, Odette.  Swann in Love has its beginning as a long section of Remembrance of Things Past but it stands well on its own and has been published as a novella and dramatized several times — Jeremy Irons played Swann in the movie.

Most of this Swann in Love is dramatic dialogue with the character of Marcel Proust providing as the writer some narrative links, a refreshing shift in texture.  It was hard to take my eyes off Michael Stuhlbarg’s face as he reflected with outward restraint, but missing nothing, the inward passions and torments of Swann.  But I had to watch also Tina Benko’s knowing gestures and expressions, and sheer charm with which she, as Odette, spins Swan in.  The expressiveness of all of these actors standing in place, the timing, the lighting and the music were so evocative it’s hard to remember it was a “reading.”  Didn’t I see their whole world?  I’m sure I did — it’s still in front of my eyes.

Swann in Love will be presented again Monday April 13th.  Go!

The Proust Project will be playing at Classic Stage in the East Village, NYC, March 30 (Albertine Regained), April 6 (Waste of Time), and April 13 (Encore:  Swann in Love).